Today’s famous courtesan is not the beautiful horse, though Eclipse certainly performed extremely well as a stallion: 80% of thoroughbreds today carry his genes. No, our featured stud is the horses owner, one Captain Dennis O’Kelly (the rank was possibly self-granted, and certainly the promotion to Lieutenant Colonel by the time Dennis wrote his memoirs was entirely fictional).
Given Dennis’s way with a story, little is certain. He was the lover of one of London’s more prosperous madams (who he met while they were both incarcerated in Fleet Street for bankruptcy). He and she both did win their way back to prosperity fairly quickly, and Dennis did buy Eclipse, who went on to sire three of the first five Derby winners as well as many other fine racehorses.
Dennis’s story of how he got his start makes him worthy of a place at our event. He was working as a sedan chair man in London, carrying the front poles . One day, a lady passenger looked him up and down and liked what she saw. Shortly after, Dennis was approached by a woman who offered him a full time job in the same profession, but for a single employer. Imagine his surprise when he found his employer was the same lady passenger.
His surprise turned to delight when his new mistress sent him to wait for further instructions at a townhouse, where she joined him in disguise (and in precisely the sense you immediately imagined. “As this publication is intended for the virtuous, as well as vicious eye,” he says, we must conceal from the one, what the experience of the other may easily supply. Some hours were spent in mutual happiness.”
Receiving a purse of 25 guineas for his exertions, Dennis found it well worth his while to return, and over several months, he says, he saved a considerable sum of money. Gaining a taste for the highlife, he immediately lost it all again, and was arrested and thrown into prison, where he met “That well known priestess of the Cyprian Deity, that love and mirth admiring votress, to pleasing sensuality, the well known Charlotte Hayes, was then an inhabitant of the same mansion.”
He comments that his attributes soon caught Charlotte’s eye “and the same services soon obtained… the same kind remunerations.” He claims to have devoted himself for the rest of his life to Charlotte, and – while ‘Charlotte had many friends, it is true… Her affections were still centred in our Hero, and on him were all the pecuniary favours which she received from others, bestowed with unbounded liberality.’
They spent the rest of their lives together, though Charlotte continued to have many friends (by way of business), and rumour at the time said the same of Dennis. He definitely qualifies to be here.